There is the CBC that exists in reality, the CBC that no one watches or really cares much about. Then there is the CBC that exists in the mind of its defenders. The CBC that may have at some point existed, albeit briefly, but never quite as anyone remembers it. The Mother Corp’s dwindling band of supporters think of it as they think of Canada; a bundle of vaguely patriotic abstractions carefully divorced from the frigid realities of daily life.
There is little point in reminding the reader that the CBC is a government subsidized anachronism that, so far as it ever made sense, made sense when men still walked around wearing fedoras and chain smoked at office desks. Though in fairness it’s unlikely Don Draper would have ever watched anything quite so lame.
If a thing lacks either beauty or utility the sensible thing is to get rid of it. Yet the Mother Corp survives. The seemingly indestructible zombie of the Canadian media landscape. The CBC continues to exist not because it’s relevant but because it’s too much trouble to kill. The Conservatives are afraid of pulling the plug because they’ll be attacked for silencing their critics, the Liberals are afraid of firing their most loyal supporters and the NDP has an ingrained resistance to cutting things loose, however useless. See Chow, Olivia.
Take the frequently used line by the CBC’s defenders and erstwhile allies: We need the state broadcaster to ensure a national conversation. Thing about conversations is that at least two people are required. Otherwise you’re just talking to yourself in a dimly lit room. There are terms to describe people like that and defender of the Canadian nationalist faith isn’t one of them.
This is more than just beating a dead public policy horse. The CBC’s absurdity is not as fascinating as what it reveals about the Canadian Left’s mindset. As a life-long resident of the Imperial Capital I can attest to the prevalence of the CBC Friend. This Friend will wear CBC buttons, buy CBC apparel and speak passionately about the value the CBC provides to Canadians of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and regional localities. About once a week they’ll muster up their patriotism and spend twenty minutes slogging through whatever’s on Radio One before switching back to classic rock.
The CBC Friend is to the CBC as Sunday Catholics are to Christianity. Piety bleeding into righteous hypocrisy. Which would be fine really. Except that Sunday Catholics don’t dip into my pockets. Messers Baldwin and Lafontaine mostly separately Church and State in Canada. Unfortunately Mackenzie King made a point of not separating Broadcasting and State. The basic conceit remains the same in either case: My Truth is so True and so Right that everyone else must pay for it.
But the Truths that the CBC promotes go far beyond whatever Peter Mansbridge is grumbling about tomorrow night. They are a vision of Canadian society that most Canadians find unrecognizable. It’s been joked for years that the CBC doesn’t tell Canada’s story to Canadians, it tells Canada’s story from Torontonians. This explains the special smugness about the reporting that simply isn’t found elsewhere in the country. Not even in Ottawa.
Richard Anderson, “A Platonic Relationship”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-12-10.
January 23, 2016
December 25, 2015
I wonder […] what younger generations make of the cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charles M. Schulz was obviously, almost blatantly, the American Kierkegaard — an austere, offbeat prophet of existentialist unhappiness from America’s weird Nordic/Lutheran corner. Kierkegaard, like other gloomy European philosophers, had a pretty good run of popularity in the ’60s, but you don’t see him on posters very often anymore. Questions about behavioural authenticity and the meaning of ritual fit the mood of a world just beginning to secularize.
In the cartoon, Charlie Brown, clad in classic existentialist discontent, obsesses over whether he is doing Christmas right, eventually experiencing anguish over whether there is any such thing as “right.” The answer to his questions turns out to be a Bible verse quoted by Linus, the theologian of the Peanuts cast, who seems to cut cleanly in one stroke through Charlie’s neurotic contortions. Linus’s Bible quote about peace on Earth and goodwill toward men still chimes in our hearts because of its stately archaic language, but as an answer to Charlie Brown’s concerns it is not rationally satisfying, and in fact it is hard for us to understand Charlie’s problem at all.
It is Lucy who now seems to be the clued-in one — truly a woman ahead of her time. “We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket,” she tells Charlie Brown. “It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate.” The key is that she says this without rancour, almost admiringly: she would have loved the whole idea of Black Friday.
Colby Cosh, “Good grief! The commercialism of Christmas isn’t so bad”, Maclean’s, 2014-12-25.
December 21, 2015
Uploaded on 15 Dec 2015
The Monkees perform “Riu Chiu” from Episode 47, “The Monkees’ Christmas Show”.
H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.
December 17, 2015
Megan McArdle isn’t normally a spinner of conspiracy theories, but here’s one that might appeal to you if you’ve been feverishly searching for the reason behind the Trump Insurgency:
If the news media actually operated like the tacit conspiracy that many conservatives imagine, we would have all quietly gotten together and agreed to bury Trump. He could rant in the privacy of his own home, as reporters graciously declined to broadcast his latest pronouncements. Instead, every time he says something, everyone in the media rushes to condemn, fact-check, analyze, highlight, mutilate, fold and spindle it. All this media outrage, of course, only improves his ratings with people who believe in the conspiracy.
Why does this happen? It’s a collective action problem. If other people are reporting on Trump, then he’s news, which means you have to report on him too. Witness the fact that I am writing something like my sixth or seventh column on a man who I still don’t think will be the Republican nominee, much less the president of the United States.
It’s obvious that media moguls didn’t meet in a smoky back room to silence coverage of Trump. But there’s a slightly more plausible theory: That the Hillary Clinton supporters among the news media see Trump’s nomination as the best thing that could possibly happen for the Democratic Party. Unless the Grand Old Party nominated the disinterred corpse of Richard Nixon, there’s probably no surer path to Clinton’s victory.
Trump consistently underperforms folks like Marco Rubio in head-to-head matchups against Democratic candidates. As a nominee he would motivate massive turnout among Latinos who want to vote against him. And the party operation he’ll need to actually get supporters to the polls in November 2016 is not going to rally behind him with any great enthusiasm even if he somehow manages to secure the nomination. Trump supporters should be absolutely clear on this point: A vote for Trump in the primary is a vote for Clinton in the general.
It’s a slightly more plausible theory, but let’s get real: Journalists are covering Trump because he’s newsworthy. It’s an unintended side effect that coverage of Trump helps Clinton.
December 13, 2015
David French first introduces the political notion of the Overton Window and then describes the impact of Donald Trump on that window:
Here’s a term you need to know — the “Overton Window.” Developed by the late Joseph Overton, a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the “window” refers to the range of acceptable political discourse on any given topic. As the Mackinac Center explains, “the ‘window’ of politically acceptable options is primarily defined not by what politicians prefer, but rather by what they believe they can support and still win re-election.” The key to shifting policy lies not so much in changing politicians but in changing the terms of the debate. In other words, “The window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.”
The Left — dominating the media, the academy, and pop culture — is unmatched at moving the Overton Window. Consider gay marriage, a subject once so far outside the mainstream that less than 20 years ago, Republicans and Democrats united to pass the Defense of Marriage Act to define marriage under federal law as the union of one man and one woman. Now? That view is such an anathema that it’s difficult to get — or retain — a job in entire sectors of the economy if you openly hold to the traditionalist position on marriage.
The Overton Window moved even faster on transgender rights. Ten years ago the notion that a man with emotional problems and breast implants could be named “Woman of the Year” was unthinkable. Now, in some quarters it’s just as unthinkable to refer to Bruce Jenner — Bruce Jenner! — as a man.
Then along came Donald Trump. On key issues, he didn’t just move the Overton Window, he smashed it, scattered the shards, and rolled over them with a steamroller. On issues like immigration, national security, and even the manner of political debate itself, there’s no window left. Registration of Muslims? On the table. Bans on Muslims entering the country? On the table. Mass deportation? On the table. Walling off our southern border at Mexico’s expense? On the table. The current GOP front-runner is advocating policies that represent the mirror-image extremism to the Left’s race and identity-soaked politics.
Critically, the Overton Window was smashed not by a politician but by a very American hybrid of corporate/entertainment titan — a man rich and powerful enough to be immune to elite condemnation and famous enough to dominate the news media. How many people can commandeer live television simply by picking up the phone and calling in? How many politicians can cause Twitter to detonate seemingly at will?
While many of Trump’s actual proposals are misguided, nonsensical, or untenable, by smashing the window, he’s begun the process of freeing the American people from the artificial and destructive constraints of Left-defined discourse. Serious and substantive politicians like Ted Cruz will get a more respectful hearing, and PC shibboleths about allegedly boundless virtues of Islam and immigration will be treated with the skepticism they deserve.
November 23, 2015
At The Register, Iain Thomson explains a new sneaky way for unscrupulous companies to snag your personal data without your knowledge or consent:
Earlier this week the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) warned that an Indian firm called SilverPush has technology that allows adverts to ping inaudible commands to smartphones and tablets.
Now someone has reverse-engineered the code and published it for everyone to check.
SilverPush’s software kit can be baked into apps, and is designed to pick up near-ultrasonic sounds embedded in, say, a TV, radio or web browser advert. These signals, in the range of 18kHz to 19.95kHz, are too high pitched for most humans to hear, but can be decoded by software.
An application that uses SilverPush’s code can pick up these messages from the phone or tablet’s builtin microphone, and be directed to send information such as the handheld’s IMEI number, location, operating system version, and potentially the identity of the owner, to the application’s backend servers.
Imagine sitting in front of the telly with your smartphone nearby. An advert comes on during the show you’re watching, and it has a SilverPush ultrasonic message embedded in it. This is picked up by an app on your mobile, which pings a media network with information about you, and could even display followup ads and links on your handheld.
“This kind of technology is fundamentally surreptitious in that it doesn’t require consent; if it did require it then the number of users would drop,” Joe Hall, chief technologist at CDT told The Register on Thursday. “It lacks the ability to have consumers say that they don’t want this and not be associated by the software.”
Hall pointed out that very few of the applications that include the SilverPush SDK tell users about it, so there was no informed consent. This makes such software technically illegal in Europe and possibly in the US.
November 13, 2015
Published on 2 Jan 2014
Thunderbirds Documentary. Step into the twisted mind of Gerry Anderson, and see how he makes Thunderbirds. F.A.B. A favorite show from my childhood with more information than I ever wanted.
H/T to The Arts Mechanical for the link.
November 12, 2015
In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rachel Toor talks to Camille Paglia:
Not long after she had splashed onto the scene with the publication of her first book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, and followed that up with an essay in The New York Times claiming that Madonna was the future of feminism, I went to see Camille Paglia speak on a panel about political correctness at New York University. My recollection is of being frisked by armed guards before being allowed to enter the auditorium, but it’s more likely we just had to empty our pockets and go through a metal detector. That I thought the extra protection was for the professor from a small arts college in Philadelphia, and not for another speaker on the dais, Edward Said, tells you something about how Paglia was regarded in the circles in which I traveled.
Camille Paglia is an intellectual flamethrower. She’s fearless. She can be bully-mean and a name caller. She makes some people really, really mad. But she’s also a serious thinker who has been able to write important scholarly books that cross over into a wide readership, and you can regularly find her byline in national magazines, where it’s always a treat to read her sentences. Whether she’s writing about the Obama administration, characterizing cats (in Sexual Personae) as the “autocrats of self-interest,” rhapsodizing about The Real Housewives, or bludgeoning feminists, Christopher Hitchens, or Jon Stewart, she is sometimes right and never boring.
I approached her for this series with trepidation. I was eager to hear what she had to say about writing, but, to be honest, I was a little afraid of her (she called my former boss, Stanley Fish, a “totalitarian Tinkerbell”). Silly me. Camille could not have been more gracious, personable, or fun. She did tell me with a bit of glee that my former employer, Oxford University Press, was one of the seven publishers who rejected Sexual Personae. Thankfully that was before I started working there.
November 1, 2015
Published on 26 Oct 2015
Whether your team wins or loses, this is what the press conference sounds like after the game. Every time.
October 26, 2015
It is important to understand that, except a few, the journalists are not ideologues. They are, once again, typical products of our drive-in universities, and journalism schools which have, if possible, even lower intellectual standards. They know no history, nor anything much about the topics on which they write, and can be easily mesmerized by a narrative they have themselves written, by rote. Such is the nature of promotion within what has become a niche of the entertainment industry, that those of independent mind and moral fibre are quickly weeded out.
I’m inclined to use the term “progressive” rather than dwell on Left and Right wings, for there is some contrast between, say, MSNBC and Fox in the USA, between CBC and Sun News up here. There is a growing Right — an opposition within the media to itself — but it is not a significant improvement on the monotony that preceded it. The idea that, as a form of entertainment, news coverage should aspire to “tabloid” conditions, and avoid subjects which require knowledge, governed the rightwing impresarios from the start. The Right is fresher and feistier than the Left, and by its Pavlovian habit of reacting to Left agendas, sometimes traps itself in a principled position; but this is a random, not intended effect. Both sides continue to share the post-Christian worship of abstract “liberty,” “equality,” and material “progress.” They clash on who can deliver these empty buckets quicker. But the battle is fought from both sides with the same weaponry — platitudes and clichés — in a kind of unending spiritual Verdun. “Progress” invariably emerges as the victor.
David Warren, “Ottawa in the news”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-10-23.
October 23, 2015
Gavin McInnes isn’t impressed with the ongoing self-infantalization of the adult world, but he’s even less thrilled that even the cartoons are now primarily oriented to adults rather than children:
I’ve oft complained about the infantilization of American adults, but something strange is happening. We’re going from “Comic books aren’t just for kids anymore” to “Comic books are not for kids anymore.” Adults aren’t just participating in kid culture, they’re confiscating it.
We just finished hosting Comic Con here in NYC and the streets were filled with grown-up children dressed as superheroes and characters from kids’ shows. I’m not talking about a dad dressed as Batman because his kid was dressed like that too. There were no kids. Comic Con is for adults now. Eventbrite surveyed 2,600 fans and listed 0% under 13. The vast majority was between 30 and 49.
As a parent trying to give my children a childhood, I find this co-opting of their culture infuriating. In my home, we celebrate “Cartoon Morning” on Saturdays because it’s one of the fondest memories of my own childhood. Looking back, I realize the cartoons we had back then sucked pretty bad. The best it got was Wacky Races, which was just a race between different cartoon characters sabotaging one another. There was no plot. The quality of cartoons today is incredible. The two top broadcasters, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, host mind-blowing, quality shows such as Adventure Time, Regular Show, Clarence, We Bare Bears, The Amazing World of Gumball, Uncle Grandpa, Sanjay and Craig, and of course, Pig Goat Banana Cricket. I’d never watch these on my own, but I believe it’s healthy to watch these shows with your kids because it forges a bond and you often need to explain the story to the younger ones. The problem is, these shows don’t air on Saturday mornings. One of the reasons they’re so good is that they’re not made for kids. They’re made for adults. My kids’ favorite, Sanjay and Craig, airs new episodes at 8:15 p.m. on Fridays and 10:45 Saturday mornings. Kids get up at 7 a.m. They’re bored of cartoons by then. These shows must be adhering to the sleep patterns of grown-ups. When you turn on the TV at 7 a.m. on Saturdays, Nickelodeon is showing a SpongeBob SquarePants marathon and Cartoon Network is doing the same with a terrible show called Teen Titans. That’s the kind of thing on at three in the morning on a Tuesday. Saturday-morning cartoons are officially over.
October 7, 2015
What about slavery? Slavery certainly has its place among the horrors of humanity. But our “educators” today, along with the media, present a highly edited segment of the history of slavery. Those who have been through our schools and colleges, or who have seen our movies or television miniseries, may well come away thinking that slavery means white people enslaving black people. But slavery was a worldwide curse for thousands of years, as far back as recorded history goes.
Over all that expanse of time and space, it is very unlikely that most slaves, or most slave owners, were either black or white. Slavery was common among the vast populations in Asia. Slavery was also common among the Polynesians, and the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere enslaved other indigenous peoples before anyone on this side of the Atlantic had ever seen a European.
More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. White slaves were still being bought and sold in the Ottoman Empire, decades after blacks were freed in the United States.
Thomas Sowell, “Indoctrination by Grievance-Mongers: Anti-American educational elites need a dose of reality”, National Review, 2014-10-15.
September 17, 2015
By the time I started paying attention to the original Star Trek, it was already in syndication (and aside from the cartoon series, it was the only Star Trek) so I didn’t see the episodes in anything like their original order. Megan Geuss says I (and pretty much everyone else in my age cohort) missed a lot due to this:
Here at Ars Technica, we have Star Trek on the brain. A lot. It’s a thing most of us have strong opinions about, and without a physical office, sometimes the IRC watercooler chat devolves into half-hour-long discussions about the relative merits of such and such a character. That is, until a senior editor implores us to write up our thoughts instead of wasting time arguing idly over chat; we are writers, after all, and writing is what we ought to be doing during the work day.
I, too, have strong opinions about characters in Star Trek, but I came at the show from a much different perspective than most of my peers. My colleagues were astounded when I told them that I’d only seen one episode of Star Trek as a child (I don’t even remember the plot) and my first real exposure had been as an adult, when I watched the entirety of The Original Series and The Next Generation in order, over the course of three years or so.
My colleagues, and in fact almost everyone I meet who I end up talking to about Star Trek, can’t seem to understand why I’d do that. I realized a year ago that this disbelief comes from the fact that almost everyone who did watch Star Trek as a child watched it syndicated on TV, particularly The Original Series. While they may have seen all or close-to-all of the episodes in all the various series, they saw them randomly and sporadically over the course of an entire childhood, with other shows to fill the space in between.
Not I. Thanks to Netflix, I watched The Original Series over a two-year period, with other shows and movies in between, and I watched The Next Generation in a little under one year as my primary after-work TV. From a modern TV viewer’s perspective, the Original Series, with all of its 1960s storytelling quirks and anachronisms, was the hardest entry in Star Trek canon to get through. That’s what I’ll focus on here, because talking about both series from a novice’s point of view would make this article longer than the distance from Earth to the Delta Quadrant.
September 13, 2015
At The Walrus, Jonathan Kay explains how Ron Weasley (and the whole Fan Expo celebrity photo “experience”) made him both sad and $300 poorer:
Fans of the TV show Entourage will remember the second-season episode in which Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) heads to San Diego’s Comic-Con International, dressed in prop-wardrobe Viking costume. Drama, we learn, had appeared in a (fictional) show called Viking Quest, starring as the warrior Tarvold. On the fan-convention circuit, Drama explained, he could rake in big money by signing autographs, and set conventioneers’ hearts aflutter with Tarvold’s signature cry of “Victory!” On Entourage, this seemed funny. In real life, I recently learned, it’s sad.
On Sunday, I took two of my daughters to the 2015 instalment of Fan Expo Canada, billed as “the largest Comics, Sci-fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming event in Canada.” More than 100,000 fans show up annually for the four-day exhibition, which now sprawls over both buildings of the massive Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Under one roof, I was able to meet a life-size My Little Pony, compete in a Catan tournament, playtest emerging console video games, commission custom panels from famous cartoonists, pose with life-size Futurama characters, buy a fully functional 3D-chess set, and generally revel in all the various subcultures that the rest of society stigmatizes as dorky and juvenile. My girls and I have been to Fan Expo Canada three years in a row, and we always have a good time.
But my daughters are getting older. This year, for the first time, they were after more than just a Harry Potter wand and a Gryffindor T-shirt: They wanted to meet the real-life Harry Potter movie stars appearing at Fan Expo. Expecting to encounter nothing more than a real-life version of Drama’s Viking Quest subplot, I acquiesced, and we wandered over to celebrity row.
I was shockingly naive about how this process works. Before Sunday’s celebrity adventure, I’d assumed that one could mingle about and snap pictures with fan-con celebs for free, taking out your wallet only when you wanted a signed photo.
In fact, the best way to describe Fan Expo’s celebrity protocol is as a sort of Chicago Mercantile Exchange for human beings. Instead of live cattle, lean hogs, skimmed milk powder, cash-settled butter, and softwood pulp, this big board (displayed above) lists prices for Billy Dee Williams, Gillian Anderson, Danny Trejo, Neve Campbell, Norman Reedus, Skeet Ulrich, Zach Galligan, and fifty other stars and quasi-stars. The precision of the numbers suggests a fine-tuned demand-driven adjustment process that any commodities trader would recognize. Williams (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars, but you knew that) was listed at $57. Anderson (X-Files): $91. Danny Trejo (Machete): $74. Neve Campbell (Scream): $97. Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead): $130. Skeet Ulrich (Jericho): $68. Zach Galligan (Gremlins): $63. Just my luck: Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s red-haired sidekick) was listed at $142 — highest on the board. I wanted to bail out. But having made the mistake of getting dragged this far, turning back wasn’t going to be a good-dad move.
September 8, 2015
Gregg Easterbrook reviews The End of Doom by Ronald Bailey:
Outside your window, living standards are rising, crime is declining, pollution is down, and longevity is increasing. But in pop culture, we’re all doomed. The Hunger Games films have been box-office titans, joined by World War Z, Interstellar, The Book of Eli, Divergent, The Road, and other big-budget Hollywood fare depicting various judgment days. Over in primetime, the world is ending on The Walking Dead, The Last Ship, The 100, and Under the Dome.
The same outlook obtains in nonfiction literature. Books that foresee doomsday — Collapse by Jared Diamond, The End of Nature by Bill McKibben, The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett among them — win praise from commentators and sell briskly. Books contending that things basically are fine don’t do as well. One might think that optimism would be marketable to contemporary book buyers, who live very well by historical standards, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. Readers prefer material that depicts them dwelling in the final generation. Perhaps declining religious belief in Armageddon has been replaced by an expectation of some natural-world version of the event.
Into this adverse market steps The End of Doom by Ronald Bailey, an impressively researched, voluminously detailed book arguing that the world is in better shape than commonly assumed. Bailey deflates doomsday by showing that human population growth does not mean ecological breakdown; that food supply increases faster than population and probably always will; that, far from depleted, most resources are sufficient to last for centuries; that air pollution in the United States is way down; and that cancer is in decline.
Specialists will argue about some of the studies Bailey cites to support these contentions. So much environmental research exists today, for example, that one can find a study to prove practically anything. But in the main, Bailey’s selection of research is fastidious and convincing.
Bailey spends too much time, though, on discredited trendy bleakness from the 1960s and 1970s — such as Paul Ehrlich’s global-famine predictions and the 1972 Club of Rome report. One can practically hear dead horses saying, “Stop flogging me.” The End of Doom redeems itself with a clever chapter on how precautionary principles boil down to this rule: never do anything for the first time. “Anything new is guilty until proven innocent,” Bailey writes, but he goes on to chronicle how many new ideas denounced as dangerous turned out instead to make life less risky.